OTC News Archive

Conference showcases inventions developed at University

Investors given chance to peruse technology devised on campus

By Kristi Hsu, The Daily Texan
June 2, 2005

It’s two inches thick, spiral-bound and has the same dimensions of any five-subject, college-ruled notebook that commonly floats around campus—except there are no notes or doodles in this book. Between the shiny plastic covers of this spiral are hundreds of scientific inventions that vary from ingenious electronic paper to new revolutionary ways of making cheaper fuel cells.

The book, which holds all the technologies the University has available for investors, played an important silent role at the 2005 ‘Ready to Commercialize’ convention last week at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus.

The inventions listed in the available technologies book are all in different levels of development. Some scientists have patents and recent discoveries. Other inventions in the book have languished without commercial sponsorship for years, such as Michael Werst’s rail gun—a high-performance fieldable electromagnetic gun.

That’s where UT’s technology commercialization program comes in. The program creates opportunities for inventors to get their work into the commercial market by working with companies and investors.

The conference, hosted by UT’s Office of Technology Commercialization, is just one way the office tries commercializing more of the University’s inventions.

“[The conference] is a way to build a community and create interactions between inventors and investors, a way for inventors to meet other inventors and investors to talk to other investors,” said Michael Hanratty, licensing associate of the OTC.

Although there were panels throughout the day, the main focus was to showcase the newest developments at the University, including injectable bio-chips and digital neuroevolution or computers that could learn to make decisions.

“These were projects that had never been seen before, and the OTC believes they hold great promise and have the potential to go through a venture start-up,” said Hanratty.

Robert Williams, a pharmacy professor, was one of the 11 inventors featured at the convention.

With his partner James McGinity, Willams is working on creating a system that facilitates the delivery nanoparticles in pharmaceutical drugs. Medicines that are poorly water soluble aren’t easily absorbed by the human body, making the medicines inefficient. The drugs are broken down and must be administered as nanoparticles, which helps in absorption.

“The problem is that the nanoparticles want to stick together and when they do that, they don’t absorb as well into the gastro-intestinal system,” Williams said.

Currently, more than 40 percent of the drugs on the market are poorly water soluble, including Lipitor and Zocor. Williams and McGinity have created a process they believe will help the absorption process, seeding a polymer with the nanoparticles. This prevents the particles, which can be less than a micron long, from being absorbed poorly.

To start the road to commercialization, an inventor has an idea and files a invention disclosure, said Williams, who is also the chairman of the OTC life-sciences panel.

An invention disclosure is a form an inventor fills out to let the University know that new technology has been developed, he said.

By submitting a disclosure, the inventor grants permission to the OTC to offer assistance and support throughout the commercialization process, according to the OTC’s website.

Later, the invention is then peer reviewed and the OTC deems whether it has commercial potential or not.

Inventors must go through the University to release inventions.

“If they’ve used university resources and university facilities, then they have to go through the OTC,” Hanratty said.

If an invention is successfully received in the commercial market, the partner company pays royalties to UT and the inventor, split 50-50.

Royalty income has increased from $3.9 million in 2003 to $5.1 million a year ago, and is growing more than 20 percent each year.

However, that’s not enough for academic institutions, which was discussed at the panel “Technology Commercialization at Texas Universities.”

Even with the millions of dollars that universities make from this kind of research, it’s not enough to cover the cost of the experimentation, said Bill Doty, managing director of technology development at UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

[ Daily Texan ]